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Police Role and Suicide Risk (From Under the Blue Shadow: Clinical and Behavioral Perspectives on Police Suicide, P 40-61, 2007, John M. Violanti and Stephanie Samuels -- See NCJ-220852)

NCJ Number
John M. Violanti; Stephanie Samuels
Date Published
22 pages
This chapter presents a model that identifies and explains the impact of social roles and psychological susceptibility on the risk for police suicide.
The model does not claim to identify the causes of police suicide nor does it intend to explain why police officers have a higher or lower suicide rate than other populations. Rather, the model describes a process that increases the potential for police suicide. The model proposes that police officers, through psychological and physiological mechanisms, become ingrained in the police role and isolated from other life roles. Psychological depression, social isolation, and constrictive thinking may result. The police organization attempts to restrict and manage the behavior of officers, such that officers are not encouraged or enabled to adapt their behaviors to cope with stressful circumstances both within and outside of their occupations. The police subculture ultimately places the officer in a dilemma of role conflict. In order to be accepted within the police subculture, an officer must conform to strict norms of loyalty prescribed by the group. In so doing, however, the officer must sacrifice his/her individuality and personal judgments about what is best for his/her self-esteem and self-fulfillment. The model also proposes that once officers psychologically and socially acquire the police role, dependence on this role may impact their ability to deal with distress inside and outside of police work. Cognitive (attitudes and perspectives), social, and inflexible styles linked with the police role may handicap officers in coping with stressful interpersonal interactions and foster factors associated with the potential for suicide. Two case studies are presented to illustrate the dynamics of the model in explaining how factors in socialization to police work may diminish an officer's ability to cope with stress and thus increase the potential for suicide ideation. 1 figure and 61 references